ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –For Fullback Jacob Hester, virtually everything about his football career has changed since he signed with the Broncos in late November.
For the first 12 weeks of the season, the fifth-year man out of LSU was looking for work after the Chargers released him on Aug. 31.
His arrival in Denver completed a dramatic two-month stretch that saw him leave the team he spent his first four years with after being drafted in 2008, spend all of September and October and most of November out of work, then finally continue his career in a new uniform.
Upon signing with the Broncos, Hester had a number of adjustments to make. He had to readjust to the physical wear and tear of hitting and being hit on a daily basis. He had to learn a new offense and locker room full of teammates he had never played with. He even had to familiarize himself with playing a slightly different position.
"It was a little different," Hester said. "In San Diego, I played more fullback than running back. Coming here, it changed up a little bit. I'm always glad to contribute and glad to be a part of the team. Guys that know me know that no matter what it is, no matter what the role is asked, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
It was that open-minded attitude that made Hester a quick study in the Broncos offense. After being inactive for his first two games while learning the team's playbook, Hester saw his first action in a Denver uniform in the team's Week 15 trip to Baltimore. On just his second carry with his new team, Hester powered into the end zone from a yard out to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead. Hester found the end zone once again a week later against Cleveland, then ran for a career-high 55 yards in the regular season finale against Kansas City. Despite playing in just three games, Hester finished 2012 with a career-high two rushing touchdowns. He credited his success to the efforts of his coaching staff.
"They've been great," Hester said. "(Head) Coach (John) Fox has been unbelievable. Really the whole team and coaching staff in general made it easy for me, stayed late with me, helped me learn the offense quickly. Coach E (Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville), everybody has done a great job. I really appreciate them putting the time in to help me learn the offense as quick as we did. Now I have to give them all the credit in the world for helping me."
In addition to Hester's individual success, he was also a part of five consecutive victories after signing before the Week 13 win over Tampa Bay. The team's hot streak ended in disappointing fashion in the Divisional Round against Baltimore, but Hester is confident the Broncos will be able to make another run in 2013.
"Obviously, we're all disappointed," Hester said. "It hurts to take this loss. I think being around here, a bunch of guys are saying next year, if we come around with the right attitude and do the things we need to do, we can be back in this position and hopefully grow on it. Having a lot of guys back will be good and I'm looking forward to it."
With five seasons under his belt, including experience on Chargers teams that made the playoffs in both 2008 and 2009, when San Diego went 13-3, Hester knows what an NFL team needs to be successful. And just six games as a Bronco was enough to convince Hester that he's now part of a team that has what it takes.
"Yeah, this team from top to bottom, was about as good as you can ask for," Hester said. "We just have to keep it going and, as bad as it hurts, we have to cut this one loose and look forward to next year."